By law, East Haven owes Emma Jones. But why? (New Haven Advocate)
EAST HAVEN, Conn. (FinalCall.com)-Emma Jones, like many Black mothers in America, buried a son prematurely because a White police officer used deadly force. A jury, after hearing testimony in Ms. Jones’ civil lawsuit against the town, agreed that Officer Robert Flodquist used excessive force and violated Malik Jones’ civil rights. They also agreed that the town had shown a pattern of systemic racial profiling. The jury of six Whites and one Black awarded Ms. Jones $2.5 million.
On July 12, Ms. Jones, members of the MALIK Organization and the Greater New Haven Chapter of the NAACP staged a convoy demonstration that started in New Haven, where Mr. Jones was shot, and ended in East Haven.
To the group’s surprise, about 80 White residents of East Haven stood on the steps of the town’s city hall and greeted the caravan with chants of, “Go Home! Go Home!”
“That convoy was an in-your-face demonstration,” East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo told The Final Call during a telephone interview. “The actions of some of the people in that convoy provoked the reaction on the steps of my city hall. I am told that people were sitting on the hood of cars with fists in the air shouting, ‘Black power’ and saying, ‘We won, Whitey,’ ” the mayor said.
Ms. Jones, a Muslim, and Scot X Esdaile, president of the New Haven NAACP chapter, said Whites were holding signs saying that Malik got what he deserved, and the crowd was shouting, “Go home, niggers.”
“They called me a Black b––,” Ms. Jones said.
“I checked with our chief of police and all of the officers assigned to city hall, and they say they never heard the word nigger,” countered Mayor Maturo. “I believe my chief of police.”
Mr. Jones died on the night of April 14, 1997, when officer Flodquist pulled his car over after receiving a report of a car being driven erratically. Officer Flodquist reportedly told Mr. Jones to turn off the car. According to reports, the officer somehow believed the car would be used as a weapon against him, so he broke the car windshield and shot Mr. Jones point blank.
The police and Justice Department have ruled the shooting justified.
When Ms. Jones realized she wasn’t going to get criminal charges, she pushed hard for a civil case.
“People said I did not stand a chance fighting for my day in court. People said to me, ‘go on, trust the system and let this thing go,’ ” Ms. Jones said.
But she did not let it go. There were constant demonstrations in the seashore town of 28,189, where Whites represent 93.3 percent of the population and Blacks 1.9, according to the 2000 census. And finally the feds decided to hear the civil case.
“This is a victory for all people. When the jury said I had proven official practice of racial profiling, that decision has broad ramifications. It is a decision for immigrants whose rights have been severely violated since September 11, 2001, for people of color, for the poor and downtrodden,” Ms. Jones said. “I fought for exactly six years, two months and 25 days for justice for my son.”
Mayor Maturo told reporters that he felt the jury had made a “mistake.” Other East Haven officials said the $2.5 million award was the result of a “run away jury” that did not listen to the instructions from the court. The mayor said they would appeal.
Ms. Jones’ attorney, Joseph A. Muniz, said the verdict–believed to be among the largest police misconduct awards in state history–represents a significant signal to officials of East Haven and other towns that an atmosphere of discrimination against minorities “shall not exist.”
Sgt. DeLacy Davis of the East Orange, N.J., Police Department and founder of Black Cops Against Police Brutality referred to Ms. Jones as a “phenomenal woman” with humble strength. He told The Final Call that Ms. Jones would always appear in her Muslim dress and that would cause a negative reaction, but she never caved in.
“Yes, I am a Muslim. It is my faith in Allah’s justice that carried me through all of this,” she said, adding that people must understand that the system will do everything to criminalize Blacks who stand up against police abuse.
Officer Flodquist, who has been promoted to sergeant and is the police department spokesman, said it is time for healing for his family and the Jones family.
“What happened that night in 1997 was a motor vehicle stop and it had nothing to do with race,” Sgt. Flodquist stressed.
(For information on the Malik Jones Scholarship Fund, contact the MALIK Organization, 284 James Street, New Haven, Conn., 06513.)